There is a tale of two churches in Cincinnati, Ohio with two similar stories.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a 121-year-old Gothic Revival catholic church located in Sedamsville, a struggling lower-incomed neighborhood hemmed in by River Road and steep hillsides, was close to being demolished. The looming church, with its iconic leaning steeple, was set to be demolished only a few days from now, but a deal struck between the owner of the church and the Cincinnati Preservation Association gave the groups time to repair the deteriorating building and market it to a new owner.
The owner, John Klosterman, owns many of the properties in Sedamsville and has been banking on the rise of property values in Sedamsville – similar to what has happened along Riverfront Drive east of downtown towards Columbia Tusculum. Purchased in 1995 from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the church was to be a centerpiece and a showcase for the neighborhood, but it has become a showcase for all the wrong reasons.
Broken stained glass has been boarded over. Box-gutter deterioration and collapse has left water streaming inside during rainstorms and snow melts. And the paint started to chip, leaving the Sedamsville Building Committee to request demolition from the city.
If the building is resold, the Cincinnati Preservation Association has pledged that it will be sold with restrictions to ensure that the character of the property remains unchanged.
Closer to the city center, in the crime-ridden West End, the First German Reformed Church faced a similar fate. Holes in the slate roof, some of which dated to when the property was active, have caused advanced deterioration in parts of the church. Floors have seemingly rotted away in places, while others are in remarkably good shape. The iconic stained glass has all but been tarnished after years of abuse, and little of the historic character remains inside. But what remains is to be cherished: hand-carved wood work remains in excellent condition, along with the ornate plaster moldings.
But the church was slated for demolition until Over-the-Rhine A.D.O.P.T. stepped in and marketed the property for only $1 – with the condition that the new owners make necessary repairs to stabilize the building and pay all back taxes and fees. That proposal worked, and on January 20, Teddy Aitkins, Manny Hernandez and Skye White purchased the church and have begun making repairs to stabilize the property and get it back within city compliance. Windows and doors are being secured, and roof repairs are now just beginning.
Kudos to the Cincinnati Preservation Association and Over-the-Rhine A.D.O.P.T. for helping to save two of Cincinnati’s most cherished and endangered structures in the hopes that they can be rehabilitated and put back into function. While these are two notable structures being saved, many others are being lost on a near daily basis. Let’s hope that through these organizations and others, that we can stop the needless destruction of the historic fabric that not only holds Cincinnati together and keeps it unique, but many other American cities.